today was the brooklyn book festival, aka one of my favorite days of the year! unfortunately, i didn't make it to all the panels i'd hoped; a weekend of little/bad sleep and the humidity drained me by mid-afternoon, especially because i started when the festival started, bright and early at ten am! here are some photos and panel recaps.
no attempts at introductions today; i'm pooped.
10 am: unsung heroines
alexander chee (the queen of the night, hmh, 2016), desiree cooper (know the mother, wayne university press, 2016), irina reyn (the imperial wife, thomas dunne, 2016), moderated by clay smith (kirkus)
- alexander chee: this novel (the queen of the night) was my attempt to write about these women i would see at the edges of things or mentioned in a sentence in other works, where the line would be something like "she was a favorite of the emperor's" [or ...] "she could walk on her hands," and the narrative would move on from there — and i was like, wait a minute, can we go back to the woman who could walk on her hands?
- AC: i was a boy soprano — but, when you're a boy soprano, you know your voice will leave eventually. i think female sopranos know this, too, but they have longer than 3-5 years.
- AC: women had to become these supernatural women [...] to be seen as more than normal women.
- desiree cooper: women [hold] a lot of dimensions of their lives in secret, and it's sort of like a giant well-kept secret. [know the mother]'s not an autobiographical book, but it's definitely mined from the experiences of my friends.
- DC: detroit is not the kind of town where you can go very far without meeting people who are not like you. it was the gift that i got, to be able to step into different lives.
- DC: the stories hang together around the issue of what happens when gender asserts itself when you least expect it, when those roles come down on a woman.
- DC: i used to be a lawyer and worked in a corporate setting, and there really was a bathroom with two stalls [for women] in this office of 150 people. [she was pregnant at one point while working here.] when you can't even talk about a happy event, how do you talk about a loss? you hide every aspect of your womanness just to survive.
- (the story she read from is written from the POV of a woman who miscarries while at work.)
- irina reyn: the 18th century is no joke; there's not a lot of information about that. it's a lot of things to negotiate with the historical narrative.
- IR: i think what's interesting [about writing historical fiction parallel to contemporary fiction] is that we get to ask "have we come a long way?" putting those side by side really asks those questions — "where are we now?"
- DC: women's rights are human rights. when you humanize women, everyone can relate to them.
11 am: culinary comfort
julia turshen (small victories, chronicle, 2016), andie mitchell (eating in the middle, clarkson potter, 2016), pierre thiam (senegal, lake isle press, 2015), moderated by helen rosner (eater)
- andie mitchell: in my cookbook (eating in the middle), i talk about how losing 135 pounds doesn't mean you stop loving food. i had to shift my thinking of what is comfort food and how do i remake not only my mindset of comfort food and what i think those are.
- pierre thiam: senegal, our culture, is comfort food. we eat around the bowl, so anyone can come and mix in. there's always room for someone, a new perso, around the bowl. and for me that's comfort food, because of the love that's in it.
- PT: food is healing; it's love. in senegal, that's my inspiration and that's how i wanted the hook to be translated for american readers. i didn't want it to be just about recipes but about comfort and sharing.
- julia turshen: for most of my career, i feel i've been very tuned into other people's comfort.
- JT: i studied poetry in college, and i think of recipes as these poems, and they're [things] to translate what i did at home and condense them into instruction. i try to be as encouraging as possible. i think the biggest thing i try to do with recipes is try to answer questions before you ask them. it's sort of giving all these clues, and, within that, i find there to be opportunities for descriptive language.
- JT: i think food is the best thing to write about because there's so much to describe.
- JT: telling the stories that are true to you — that's what makes a cookbook successful.
- JT: the thing i love about cookbooks is that they're a means to tell stories [but then people take them and cook from them and these new stories come from them].
- PT: i don't think the cookbook should be approached as the bible because i don't cook that way. it's always an evolution, and i think that's how food works. it evolves, but you recognize the same dish even if it's not the same dish. cooking should be a personal, intimate affair, so you come with your own contribution to the recipe.
after my first two back-to-back panels, i moseyed around a little, browsed a little, snuck into a store to use the loo, then i managed to catch half of a poetry panel and hear ocean vuong (night sky with exit wounds, copper canyon press, 2016) and monica youn (blackacre, graywolf press, 2016) read — they're both so good.
1 pm: witches
robert eggers (the witch), robyn wasserman (girls on fire, harper, 2016), alex mar (witches of america, FSG, 2015), moderated by jaya saxena (the daily dot)
- alex mar: paganism as an actual movement is now a phenomenon in this country.
- AM: there's a lot we see in film that's real; it's high drama. there's a specific reason for all of it. the reality is that a lot of things we associate with horror films is now actually — we should start to be more open-minded about how we view what these things are, which are part of a religious movement.
- AM: part of this [fear] is that paganism is related to radically independent women. we were joking about this earlier — about girls and how dangerous they are — but it's true.
- robyn wasserman: [...] these girls are children, and they're nice innocent little kids, but, somewhere, there's a turn, and it's like something has colonized this child, and this thing is a sexual impulse. and we as a society are so afraid of acknowledging sexuality and sexual feelings in adolescent girls [...] that we talk about it as a sort of colonizing. like the devil has taken over.
- RW: witchcraft [is] a tool you deploy against powerful women — but also, this idea that women can't be magical in their own right? if they have some kind of strong power, they must have been taken over by some greater power.
- RW: we're so terrified by female sexuality that we [make it this other thing].
- robert eggers: i think the misogyny of the early modern period was so great that they actually thought these girls were witches. witches were real.
- RW: there's something so threatening about girls doing something beyond the male gaze.
- AM: there's no evidence that anything we recognize as witchcraft was being practiced in salem.
why is there a photo of an apple cider doughnut? because i traded my email address for a doughnut, aka i signed up for a newsletter because it meant i could have a doughnut. which goes to say that enticing people with food? it works, folks. (heh, joking; i would've signed up, anyway.)
and that was the brooklyn book festival for me this year! thanks for reading!